Archive for May, 2011

Small Particles Can Flow Up Waterfalls, Say Tea-Drinking Physicists

By Veronique Greenwood | May 17, 2011 12:45 pm

yerba mate
When the height is right, tea leaves zip up the
waterfall and go for a swim in the upper container.

It’s not just salmon that can leap nimbly up waterfalls, according to a new study in the physics arXiv: wee particles like tea leaves and industrial contaminants can flow upstream if conditions are right.

Cuban scientists first noticed this strange phenomenon while brewing yerba mate by decanting pure water from one container into another containing the tea leaves. Mysteriously, tea leaves sometimes appeared in the water container.

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An Underappreciated Weapon Against Air Pollution: Our Dead Skin

By Patrick Morgan | May 17, 2011 8:21 am

We humans have a whole lotta skin: The average adult human body has about 22 square feet of it. If you could step out of your skin and plop it on a scale (kids, don’t try this at home), it would weigh 8 pounds. And every minute, 40,000 of your dead skin cells flake off your body and join their brethren among the dust that accumulates in your home. Knowing how much dead skin we slough off, some scientists decided to test what that skin is up to, discovering that the oils in dead skin cells actually help reduce indoor air pollution. Read More

NCBI ROFL: What is this I don't even (facial hair edition).

By ncbi rofl | May 16, 2011 7:00 pm

Unwanted intrusive thoughts and the growth of facial hair: a cognitive analysis.

“The functional connection between unwanted intrusive hair growth and negative automatic cognitions is described and illustrated by case-material. Treatment by cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) is recommended as generally successful except when certain facts are denied.”

Bonus quotes from the full text:

“There is a similarity between unwanted intrusive thoughts and unwanted intrusive facial hair. Recent research from the All-Bulgaria Agricultural College (Organic) in the former Wandsworth, proves conclusively that the two phenomena are not merely similar, but fundamentally interconnected. Read More


NCBI ROFL: Okay, so when are men *not* thinking about food, sex, and sleep?

By ncbi rofl | May 13, 2011 7:00 pm

Sex on the Brain?: An Examination of Frequency of Sexual Cognitions as a Function of Gender, Erotophilia, and Social Desirability.

“It is commonly believed that men think about sex much more often than do women, but the empirical evidence in this area is fairly weak. By means of a golf tally counter, 283 college students kept track of their thoughts pertaining to food, sleep, or sex for one week. Read More

NCBI ROFL: Relationship of personalized jerseys and aggression in women's ice hockey.

By ncbi rofl | May 12, 2011 7:00 pm

“The present study examined the relationship between aggression and players’ names on uniforms in collegiate women’s ice hockey. Aggression was defined as mean penalty minutes per game. Information, i.e., win/loss record, penalties, and names on uniforms, about the 2002-2003 season women’s ice hockey team was obtained via e-mail from 53 of 72 (74% return rate) sports information directors (Division I = 23, Division II = 2, Division III = 28). Read More

Henry the Seal Can Discern Shapes Using Just His Whiskers

By Patrick Morgan | May 12, 2011 5:22 pm

Blindfolded and fitted with noise-canceling headphones, this seal might better fit a marine-creature hostage crisis than a scientific study. In reality, it’s making history by showing for the first time that the whiskers of harbor seals are so sensitive that they can discern the shapes of objects by the ripples they make. Marine biologists have known for a while that seals use their whiskers to find fish in dark, murky waters, but as lead researcher Wolf Hanke told LiveScience, whiskers had “never been shown to analyze things” beyond that. Being able to discern shape and size means that seals may use their whiskers to pick out the fattest fish.

Henry, a 12-year-old harbor seal, was plopped into an open-air pool in a Cologne zoo to put his whiskers to the test. Researchers blindfolded and placed headphones on him so that he could only use his whiskers to sense underwater objects. In the pool, the researchers placed a plastic box containing an assortment of variably-shaped paddles. Because they trained Henry to touch his nose to a small plastic sphere whenever he thought a paddle’s ripples were different from a control paddle’s ripples, the scientists were able to test whether the seal could discriminate between different shapes and sizes.

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Call Off the Crazy: Quake Prediction Falsely Attributed to Decades-Dead Quack Was Wrong

By Patrick Morgan | May 12, 2011 11:37 am

It’s said that all roads lead to Rome, but on May 11, the opposite was true as thousands of Romans fled the Eternal City for fear of a massive earthquake. The mass exodus was spurred by  internet rumors that said an Italian pseudoscientist predicted a devastating quake on this date over thirty years ago. It goes without saying, but here’s why you probably shouldn’t trust the seismic predictions of someone who thought earthquakes were caused by planetary alignments:

Meet Raffaele Bendandi, a “scientist” who believed that aligned planets could change Earth’s gravitational force and trigger earthquakes. He’s thought to have correctly predicted a 1915 earthquake in Avezzano, Italy, but he didn’t become famous until he “correctly” predicted a January 4, 1923 earthquake in Le Marche. (He was actually two days off.) It was close enough for Benito Mussolini, though, who later granted Bendandi a knighthood.

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Grunts of the Two-Bladdered, Three-Spined Toadfish Are More Like Birdsong Than You'd Think

By Veronique Greenwood | May 12, 2011 10:27 am

toadfishIn this lab image, the toadfish’s twin bladders
are visible in the middle of its body.

There’s nothing like a bizarre fish call to shake you out of your complacency about the universe. With that in mind, we bring you the bottom-feeding three-spined toadfish, which produces its foghorn hoots and guttural grunts by vibrating the muscles around its two swim bladders, the sacs of air that keep it afloat. And these aren’t just any hoots and grunts, a new study reveals—some of these cries have qualities that have been seen the animal kingdom over, from babies’ cries to frog calls to bird song, but never before seen in fish, though fish have been known to make an incredible array of sounds (really!).

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NCBI ROFL: Innocent until proven bearded.

By ncbi rofl | May 11, 2011 7:00 pm

Mock jurors’ perceptions of facial hair on criminal offenders.

“Two studies were conducted to measure whether mock jurors would stereotype criminal offenders as having facial hair. In Study 1, participants were asked which photograph belonged to a defendant in a rape case and which photograph belonged to a plaintiff in a head-injury case after they were “accidentally” dropped. The photographs were similar in appearance except one had facial hair. Read More

If Drug-Slathered, Erection-Enhancing Condoms Won't Lead Men to Safe Sex, Nothing Will

By Valerie Ross | May 11, 2011 4:13 pm

For men who find that condoms sometimes, um, lessen their enthusiasm, some good news: Durex may soon be selling erection-enhacing condoms with a pharmaceutical boost.

The condoms, developed by UK biotech company Futura Medical, are lined with a gel that increases blood flow. The gel’s active ingredient, glyceryl nitrate, has been used for as a vasodilator for over a century. The tricky part was getting the gel to stay in the condom without degrading the latex, but the company found a way (and quickly patented it).

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